Pre-1971 migrants to be Indian voters
In a landmark judgment, the High Court in Indian state of Meghalaya has said Bangladeshis, who settled in the north-eastern state before March 24, 1971, be treated as Indians and enrolled in the voters' list.
Though the verdict is surely welcomed by the pre-1971 Bangladeshi settlers, it leaves a large question mark over the fate of those who migrated to India from Bangladesh afterwards, including during the Liberation War.
The judgement came just a few days after Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party won a landslide victory in the national election. Modi, who will be sworn in as the prime minister of India on May 26, had been vocal against Bangladeshi migrants in the run-up to the election. He even had gone as far as to say, "People of Bangladesh will have to leave bag and baggage" once he becomes the premier.
The Meghalaya HC came with the judgement following a petition by over 40 people of Bangladeshi origin, whom the district administration denied enrolment in the voter list, citing their citizenship was doubtful, Press Trust of India reports.
These refugees hailing from Amjong village in Meghalaya's Ri-Bhoi district had moved the court after their citizenship certificates were seized by the deputy commissioner.
Justice SR Sen, in his May 15 order, directed Deputy Commissioner Pooja Pandey to return the seized certificates to the petitioners and enrol them in voters' list before the next elections.
Justice Sen said there was an understanding between the two countries as to who should be allowed to stay and who should be deported back to Bangladesh.
"It is clearly understood that the forefathers of the petitioners entered India much before March 24, 1971. As such there is no question of deporting them at this stage when they have acquired the right of permanent rehabilitation in Amjong village," he said.
The court also directed the state government and the Centre not to disturb them and to ensure proper rehabilitation for them.
The state government had earlier argued that the petitioners and their forefathers were not permanent citizens and were rehabilitated temporarily by the autonomous district council.